271,000 hunters record only 16 accidents during 3 million days afield

PRATT -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) reports that there were 16 hunting accidents in 2008, with three fatalities, two of which were not actually legal hunting incidents. This is a decrease of three accidents from the previous year and is a very small number considering that approximately 271,000 hunters spent more than 3 million days afield.

The three fatalities were unusual for Kansas, where hunting fatalities are rare. The first occurred on March 24 when the shooter fired at a nongame bird roosting in a tree behind the victim. Victim leaned in to watch and was struck in the head with a .22 long rifle bullet. Alcohol was involved. The shooter was not hunter education certified and is now serving time in state prison.

The second fatality happened on Aug. 1 when a 68-year-old hunter returned to his vehicle after coyote hunting. The man was feeling dizzy from the heat and possibly had low blood sugar. With the safety apparently off, he attempted to put a trigger lock on his still loaded rifle in the cab of his vehicle. The rifle fired, killing his wife, who was seated in the passenger seat.

The third fatality occurred when a 54-year-old hunter swung on flushing quail and fired, hitting his hunting partner. The victim (age 64) was at least partially screened by heavy weeds. The shooter and victim were long time friends and hunting partners. Again, the shooter was not hunter education certified. .

"All these incidents were preventable with proper observance of the rules of safe gun handling and common sense," explains Wayne Doyle, KDWP statewide hunter education coordinator. "But while the fatalities were tragic, the small number of accidents reflects how hunting is getting safer. The last time we had more than 20 accidents in one year was 1995. By any calculation, that means hunting is safe. The dedication of our many volunteer hunter education instructors across the state has made this happen."

Swinging on game accounted for 7 of the 16 accidents. Upland bird hunters were involved in half the accidents. There were two incidents on opening weekend of pheasant season and two on the opening weekend of quail season. The average age of all shooters was 39.